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Valpolicella: Better than Chianti? Find Out Why It May Be Your New Favorite!

View of Valpolicella vineyards from above on a hillside

Valpolicella; just saying it is fun, but what is it?

Valpolicella is one of Italy’s most celebrated areas for wine. Wine has been produced here since Roman times to great acclaim. I fell in love with the region on a recent visit to Northern Italy. Here’s why this is such a great place and spectacular wine, and why you should love it too.

But First, A little backstory:

Valpolicella is both a place and a wine; it’s an amazing wine made in a truly enchanted place.

The place, Valpolicella, is a wine region in Northern Veneto. Located in the Italian province of Veneto, about a 2-hour drive from Milan and an hour and ½ drive from Venice, the area is rich with cypresses, olive and cherry trees, and vines.

The wine, Valpolicella, is made up of indigenous grape varieties such as Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Corvinone, and/or Molinara, and it is indescribably delicious (but I’ll try).

Valpolicella has four zones if you will, or DOC/DOCG areas (more about that below), that produce Valpolicella in four different styles: Valpolicella, Valpolicella Repasso, Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto (pronounced rechoto) della Valpolicella. Each is amazing in its own right.

DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata-“Controlled Denomination of Origin”) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita-“Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin”) are quality terms under Italian wine Law. These laws were put in place to ensure that wine is from the place it states and it is produced under strict guidelines to ensure quality and authenticity. Remember, European wines are all about terroir or the place the grapes are grown. An easy way to tell what’s what is DOCG wines will have a gold emblem on the neck of the wine bottle, and DOC wines will have a blue emblem on the neck of the bottle.

Here’s the good part, why you should love it.

Valpolicella (this is the wine; remember, the whole region is Valpolicella)

  • A Valpolicella Classico area has more stringent requirements for the grapes and the winemaking process; this area makes the most wine;

  • Wines are ruby red, light, and fruity with aromas of sour cherry and flowers with a slightly bitter almond finish;

  • Refreshing and easy to drink;

  • Delicious with seafood, some hard cheeses like Parmesan, chicken, and Chinese food (really).

Amarone della Valpolicella

  • Wine that is really Valpolicella with a twist. The grapes go through a process of air drying (the process is called appassimento in Italian).

  • Grapes are laid out on racks and air-dried for several months before pressing. This process produces wines with a greater concentration of colors, aromas, and flavors.

  • Amarone is a big, powerful and opulent wine with high alcohol levels (15% to 16%). Aromas include ripe berry, dried fruit, tobacco, leather, and spices.

  • Due to the high level of alcohol, the wine tastes almost sweet, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel and strong dark chocolate notes. Yum! It’s like drinking a savory, velvety chocolate sauce.

  • A big wine demands big food, so think about braised short ribs, or braised herb-pork chops.

Valpolicella Ripasso

Wine that is made by pouring freshly made Valpolicella wine through leftover unpressed grape skins of Amarone and leaving it to sit for one to two weeks. Winemakers utilize this process to make a bigger and richer wine. And this does the trick.

  • Often referred to as a “baby” Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso is bigger than Valpolicella but does not quite have the oomph of an Amarone.

  • Pull out a steak to defrost and top with mushrooms to accompany this wine.

Recioto della Valpolicella

  • A sweet red wine made with air-dried grapes;

  • Deep ruby red medium to high alcohol, velvet mouthfeel;

  • Berries, dried fruit, such as maraschino cherries, and chocolate;

  • Pair it with dark chocolate shavings, hard cheeses, dried fruit, and cherries, for example.

So, here are the Valpolicella takeaways:

  • There are four very distinct styles of Valpolicella; due to the diversity of styles, you can pair a different type of Valpolicella with each meal.

  • Valpolicella can be consumed right after purchasing, or it can be aged for decades.

  • Valpolicella is extremely versatile when paired with food; again, depending on the style, it can be successfully paired with cheeses, chocolate, meat, fish, pasta, you name it.

  • It is delicious!


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